updated 10/19/2010 3:37:25 PM ET 2010-10-19T19:37:25

A New Mexico man who admitted to decapitating a dog using a chain saw has been sentenced to eight years in prison.

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Teddy Sexton, 32, of Aztec, had pleaded guilty to extreme cruelty to animals, which carries a sentence of up to 18 months in prison. Defense attorney Cosme Ripol told the Farmington Daily Times that because Sexton has a prior criminal history, he faced up to 15 years, including eight mandatory.

At a sentencing hearing Monday, Sexton told state District Judge Thomas Hynes he tried to slice the dog's throat on Sept. 18 and "that didn't work."

"I did the one thing I shouldn't have and severed the head with a chain saw," Sexton said.

The District Attorney's Office received more than 600 e-mails from animal activists worldwide, asking prosecutors to pursue the maximum penalty.

San Juan County Sheriff's deputies arrested Sexton and Corey Bowen, 31, on Sept. 23. Investigators determined the incident occurred after a pit bull named Thor bit a 9-year-old girl during a barbecue at Sexton's home.

Sexton told Hynes he used the knife and chain saw because he "is not allowed the right to own a gun." His previous criminal history includes possession of methamphetamine, distribution of marijuana and false imprisonment.

Bowen also faces a charge of extreme cruelty to animals. His attorney, Eric Morrow, said evidence will show Bowen is innocent.

According to court records, deputies who responded cleared the call after they learned a child had been bitten, the victim's mother was refusing to report the bite and the owners had put the dog down.

Four days later, a state Children, Youth and Families Department worker tipped investigators after learning of young children who were having nightmares from the incident. However, Sexton's relatives denied children saw what happened.

"Teddy came into the house to get the knife and told the adults what was going on," Bowen's wife, Georgette, said in a statement to deputies. "She stated since they knew they were going to kill the dog, they kept all the children in the house and away from the door."

Deputies exhumed the dog's body from a grave on the property but were unable to determine if it had rabies because it was too decomposed, Sheriff's Capt. Tim Black said last month.

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